Giorgi Margvelashvili – an ally of Georgian PM Bidzina Ivanishvili – has won the country’s presidential election, according to exit polls.
The polls give Giorgi Margvelashvili, 44, 66-68% of the vote. His closest rival, David Bakradze from the party of the incumbent, trailed with 20.2%.
David Bakradze has conceded defeat and congratulated Giorgi Margvelashvili.
The election marks an end to a decade in power for pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was barred from seeking a third term.
But constitutional changes are planned to reduce presidential powers.
The exit polls were conducted by European market research organization GfK on behalf of Georgian private television station Rustavi2, and by ACT, a Georgian public opinion group.
Giorgi Margvelashvili is a member of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream party, which won parliamentary elections last year, ushering in the former Soviet republic’s first legal transfer of power.
The billionaire businessman also intends to resign as prime minister within weeks of the vote, saying he has achieved his aims.
Bidzina Ivanishvili has called the vote Georgia’s first “European-style election”.
Since coming to power in the bloodless 2003 “Rose Revolution” Mikheil Saakashvili has implemented reforms which helped root out corruption.
Mikheil Saakashvili pursued a pro-Western foreign policy and improved public services in the Caucasus republic, where poverty remains widespread.
Tensions with Moscow flared up into an armed conflict in August 2008.
Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is also Georgia’s richest man, has dismissed the outgoing president’s achievements, calling Mikheil Saakashvili a “liar” and a “dictator”.
He has indicated that Mikheil Saakashvili could face questioning or even prosecution over the alleged crimes of his government after his term ends.
Bidzina Ivanishvili has not yet named his party’s successor as prime minister.
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